If you’ve been a Sega fan in the past and owned a Dreamcast, then you probably already know about Jet Grind Radio. It is one of the games that introduced Cel-shading technology, a technique used to make games look like cartoons. This is the same graphical style that was used in Wind Waker, except a few years earlier. This game didn’t get extremely popular, but there are still a few hardcore gamers out there who would give anything for more Jet Grind Radio games. We got a Dreamcast version, a sequel on X-Box (which is excellent by the way), and now we get a portable version on GBA so that we can enjoy this fun little game anywhere. Not only that, but it was made by the same guys who ported Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the GBA!
The concept is simple: you are a member of a gang called the GGs, and you do gang battles by going into others’ territories and tagging the walls or boards or anything else that’s worth tagging. You are using inline skates to run around the hood and you can do various moves (all done randomly and automatically) by jumping around and grinding on rails. You find all the spray cans on the ground (that’s completely normal, right?), but of course, spraying that stuff on walls isn’t legal. That’s why cops are running after you and try to stop your “evil” doings. Not only that, but one of the cops, called Captain Onishima, really hates you and he uses a gun to fire at you. And if you think that’s brutal, think again as he uses far more brutal stuff later in the game like tanks and helicopters.
But why is this game called Jet Grind Radio anyway? Well, that’s the name of a pirate radio in the game hosted by everyone’s favourite Professor K. He puts some groovy music on the air so that you can listen to it while you are tagging, and he does an incredible job. He also tells the story of the game in cutscenes that play between stages. There aren’t that many in the game as you’ll only be playing in 4 different cities of Tokyo-to. For those who don’t know, Tokyo-to is situated somewhere in Asia, but it’s not on any maps so nobody really knows exactly where it is. All of the stages are separated in different areas, so at the beginning you’ll only be playing in one area of the stage, and at the end you’ll play in that same stage but you’ll have to tag all of the areas, and eventually, the members of the gang themselves to finally beat them.
But not only is the game simple but so are the controls! You run around by pressing the up arrow, dash with the R button, jump with the B button, and tag with the A button. Grinding is done automatically and so are the moves you perform. The fun part of all this though is the tagging part as you get to do all of the movements the guy in the game does, but with the D-Pad. You’ll be doing half circles, full circles, and pressing in single directions to perform combos and complete graffitis. But you’re not alone in this; you will be doing challenges with other people, like grinding a few rails or racing them, and when you succeed they join you. All of the characters have different stats like some will have more health than others, some will be faster, have better technique or carry more spray cans which come in handy at times.
This game isn’t really about the story, but mostly about the gameplay as the story itself is rather pointless, but funny in a certain way. Since the main point of the game is to tag walls, developers have included a paint tool so that you can make your own custom graffitis, be it small, medium or large. You can save those on your GBA cartridge and use them in games so that you can spray your own graffitis on walls! How cool is that! Another thing that’s pretty cool is the fact that when you have completed the game, you can still come back and do the stages again so that offers some kind of replay value, even though it’s more fun to just start a new game and do the whole thing again. If you’re like me then you’ll want to do so more than once. Unfortunately, this game is a port of the Dreamcast original, except a few areas have been changed because it would have been difficult to do them on the GBA. That means that if you’ve played the game on Dreamcast before you might be in for a little disappointment. But if you’re a fan, you’ll love the fact that you can now play this game anywhere.
This game’s concept is extremely original, and so is its look. The cartoon look of the game is incredibly well done, and even though it is done on GBA, the developers have done an incredible job of remaking the areas from the Dreamcast version and sometimes it looks exactly the same! They’ve made the game’s graphics at a certain angle so that it gives you the impression of being in 3D even though it isn’t, but it does the job well, and the character animation is pretty good too. You move them around and have them do moves and it looks great, I was pretty impressed by it. But the most impressive part, in my opinion, is the sound of the game. The characters all make certain noises or say a few words, but the music, it is just incredible!!! There are a lot fewer tracks than on the Dreamcast, but DC discs could hold one gigabyte of information, and GBA carts are a lot smaller. But when you start playing this game and hear the same tracks that played on your TV a few years earlier, you’ll probably do the same thing I did and start crying. Well, maybe you want but the music really IS that good! They had to loop them a little earlier than they should as the songs were too long, but I really think that this is the best music you will hear on the Game Boy Advance.
I’ve had a really good time with this game as I am a Jet Grind Radio fan and being able to play that game anywhere and anytime was what made me buy it. If you’re into EA games or the more “mainstream” stuff then this game might not interest you that much, but if you are willing to try something new, you’re in for a treat! This game might not have a lot of replay value but you can do the races again or try to get as many points as possible in a stage, and there are a few unlockables like new characters and new tags you can find in the game if you really want to complete the game and get a 100% rating. So I think it is a nice addition to anyone’s collection and maybe that we’ll get a portable version or Jet Set Radio Future if it is popular enough. One can always dream…